From today’s reading of John 6
Following the feeding of the five thousand, many in the crowd became, understandably, enthralled with the idea of Jesus as their king and resident miracle worker. John 6 is a record of them, basically, responding to Jesus’ patient teaching with the repeated request “can you please do the trick with the bread again?”
You can imagine the strategies many of them were entertaining. “This guy can multiply bread, easily enough to keep an army fed. He heals people; we’ll never lose a soldier. Let’s make him King; he will free us from the Romans and supply us with bread and fish forever. We’ll be set for life! It’s a new day!”
Jesus responds to them in a way that baffles and repulses many of them:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. – John 6:51-56 (ESV) (emphasis mine)
Many of them can not handle this hard saying and they leave. It is often assumed they leave because they don’t understand what Jesus is saying, and that his words offend their religious sensibilities or are misconstrued as promoting cannibalism. But at the core, they leave for the same reason many of us wander. They want Jesus’ benefits (Hey! Free bread for life!) but he comes to give them and us so much more; to give us himself. He is our true food. He is the fuel for our lives, he himself is the Feast set before us in the wilderness in the presence of our enemies.
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:66-69 (ESV)
I have an abiding pet-peeve having to do with the cheap shots some preachers and teachers take at Peter. You know, poor old goofy, clumsy, lovable, brash, always-getting-it-wrong Peter?
Listen, Peter here and in a number of other places in the gospels, absolutely nails it. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
To whom shall we go? Only to Jesus.
Who else has the words of eternal life? Who else is the Holy One of God? Only Jesus.
Who else gives us himself as living bread and living water, satisfying us in ways no one and nothing else can, meeting the deepest desires of our heart to be fully known and fully loved, accepted in him, adopted in him, once strangers and enemies but now children and heirs of the King?
Well said, Peter! I’ll never make fun of you again.